Finding Manuscripts and Archival Materials

At Andover-Harvard Library

Search the Andover-Harvard finding aids (also called folder lists, registers, inventories, or guides) that describe the contents of its manuscripts and archives collections or browse a topical list. Most of these collections are of unpublished material; if you are looking for printed books or journals, use those tabs in the search box. An appointment is necessary to use any manuscript or archival collection at Andover-Harvard Library. See the Requesting Services page for more information.

At Harvard

  1. Search HOLLIS+

    A search in HOLLIS+, Harvard’s online library catalog, is a good place to start looking for materials held by archives and special collections at Harvard.

    HOLLIS+ searches a wide array of materials including finding aids for archives and special collections, images from visual collections, and enhanced tables of contents.

    Use the “Refine My Results” categories on the left side of the HOLLIS+ screen to limit search results to, for example, archives/manuscripts, images, or a specific library.

    Many HOLLIS+ records also contain links to more detailed inventories about the contents of collections – look for the Finding Aids links in HOLLIS+ records to find detailed information. Since collections vary in size from one volume to hundreds of boxes, this finding aid will help you narrow down the parts of the collection that are relevant to your research.

    Harvard’s OASIS catalog is another way to search finding aids.

    Finding aids for pre-1986 collections at Houghton Library are found in: Inventories of Manuscripts in the Houghton Library, Harvard University. Alexandria, Va., U.S.A.: Chadwyck-Healey, [1986?]. 348 microfiche; 11 x 15 cm. [Houghton: Reading Room HRR 1 F; Widener: Microfiche RR 47]

    Harvard’s VIA catalog is an online catalog of visual material that has been digitized from libraries, archives, museums, and other collections at the University. VIA contains descriptive records and images representing photographs, paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, architecture, decorative arts, trade cards, rubbings, theater designs, maps and plans.  New material is added to VIA daily.

  2. Explore other sources. Other repositories at Harvard include the Schlesinger Library the University Archives, and the Houghton Library. For a guide to the many archives and manuscripts at Harvard, also see the Harvard Library website.

    In general, manuscript materials are kept in closed stacks and may only be used in a designated reading room. You will probably be asked to leave all materials outside the reading room except pencils, note cards, paper, and/or a computer. Access to some collections may be restricted.

Beyond Harvard

Archive Finder. [Provides information about primary source materials from over 5,000 manuscript repositories in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. It includes records, with indexes, for approximately 100,000 manuscript and other collections. It brings together information from the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC), the National Inventory of Documentary Sources (NIDS), and the National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the UK and Ireland. Many Harvard records will be found here.] Harvard E-Resource.

ArchiveGrid[This database contains nearly a million records (largely summary descriptions) of archives, manuscripts, and special collections. Contact information for repositories is also available.] Harvard E-Resource.

Index to Personal Names in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 1959-1984. Alexandria: Chadwyck-Healey, 1988. 2 v.; 29 cm. [This has been incorporated into ArchivesUSA, but sometimes it's easier to scan the printed version.] [Ref. Z6620.U5 N32 1988]

Five College Archives Digital Access Project. [Gateway to a large digital archive of historical resources found at Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, as well as the University of Massachusetts. The site provides access to digitized information primarily relating to history and education.] Free E-Resource.

Google Scholar. [Because Google Scholar searches the websites of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web, it is more likely to produce "scholarly" results. Free version does not include access to online journal articles.] Harvard E-Resource; free version available.

There are many printed guides to archival collections as well as other sources of such information. Contact a research librarian for assistance in finding these.